To me, given my limited religious understanding, it is really probable for Islam to be true, but I am not 100% sure. I just don't know the truth. However, I see this to be problematic: this not being sure does not mean not doing anything.

Imagine that I have a computer connected to my brain which its input is my experiences and knowledge and its output is a probability of each religion to be right. Here, I define religion to be a coherent idea involving both God existence and afterdeath. Now, here my argument comes:

If, based on the information I have got from the computer,the most probable religion is Islam (take it just as an example of a religion), then there would be three scenarios: .1. do not do anything .2. do whatever Islam says to do .3. do whatever X says - X is a non-Islam religion which the computer has said its probability not to be 0.

Now, let's see what happens if I do each of these actions. We all know that there is eaither something after death or not. If there is nothing, then it does not matter which scenario shall I take, and if there is something, based on my computer data, it is most probably as Islam says. Therefore, scenario 2 is better than scenario 3 that we can eliminate now.

Between scenario 1 or 2, if I choose 1, I would eaither would not exist after death (which means it does not matter whatever you do, even choosing between the scenarios) or I will (which means I have lost my life and could not reach my purpose of life). However, if I take the second option, I would eaither not exist after death (no gain and no loss) or I will, which in this case, I would most probably be in a good condition as I have done what Islam says.

There is a metaphor for this argument: imagine you are going to drink a coffee which then you would be told by 5 years old boy near you that the coffee is poisonous. The child does not seem to be kidding, and you have no other source of information, except the fact that you have been told that the coffee you have on the desk is toxic. What would you do? Will you drink the coffee and risk your life? Or, you will just prevent drinking it until you find a good reason to avoid or accept drinking the coffee.

In this metaphor, drinking the coffee is like not saying pray, and you are searching for truth but it takes time. What if you die before then? what if you never find what you are looking for? Until then, shall I avoid the risk of not accepting a religion and going to hell, or just in case, say pray! In other words, I would not lose anything if I say pray but might gain something. On the other hand, if I don't say pray, there would be no benefit if I am right (i.e. no afterdeath) and a great loss if I am wrong (hell, punishment, etc.)

Notice that if some one says pray only because of this reasoning, would answer the question of: do you think the god exists? by saying: I don't know! It seems to be paradoxical not to believe (=100% sure) in God but say pray.

Afterall, here are my precise TWO questions: Is this reasoning valid and shall I say pray based on it? If I do, will it be accepted by, let's say, the God of Islam?

Please answer the question by building up an argument upon the question not besides, so that I can link what you mention to my problem and call it an answer.

Thanks in advance

2 Answers 2


This is a complicated version of Pacal's wager (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_wager):

Believe in God & God exists : eternal reward

Believe in God & ! God exists : small loss no reward

! Believe in God & ! God exists : no loss no reward

! Believe in God & God exists : eternal damnation

Thus believing guarantees the optimal outcome wether God exists or not.

This reasoning has been debunked, if only because it relies on the dichotomy God exists/does not exist when in fact there are plenty of religions, most of which consider the followers of the others will go to hell.

You also have to consider that if there is no afterlife, we have but one life to live in a limited time. It could therefore be a great loss to waste it by following rules that make it unenjoyable or shorten it (volunteering for martyrdom, etc)

I have also heard religious people criticizing this attitude on the ground that just following the commandments in order to optimize gain is not equivalent to believing. Depending on the religion, behavior alone without faith might not be enough. (My understanding of Islam is limited but I remember the Quran warns against people who just follow the rules but do not have faith). But this part of the discussion is theology, not philosophy.

  • 1
    In the 4th case, I think the second "!" shouldn't be there. Dec 9, 2019 at 1:38
  • Thank you to help me, however, it seems that I could not tell what I have in my mind precise enough to avoid some issues. As I said, this is neither believing nor pretending to believe if someone says pray due to this argument. So, if person X says pray because of this reasoning, and person Y asks him: do you think that Islam is true? Then, person X must reply: I don't know. This is not also pretending to believe because person X does not intend to trick anyone and answers the question honestly by admitting that he does not know if Islam is really true or not. Dec 9, 2019 at 22:58
  • Additionally, I think that absolutely no loss happens if someone dies and there is no afterdeath. This is because of the fact that no afterdeath means no purpose and so no good/bad actions. People might choose for themselves some targets in their lives but they are not true purposes necessarily. Therefore, if there is nothing afterdeath, it does not matter what to do in this world, and no gain would be really a gain as nothing is going to last for forever, including you and your "gains". Dec 9, 2019 at 23:02
  • @seyed sepehr mouavi, first comment: my bad for using the word "pretend". I see what you mean now and will edit my answer. Unfortunately it does not change the problem: many religions won't let you get away with adopting the believers' behavior without the faith (including Islam, if I remember correctly). But this is a theological question, not philosophy.
    – armand
    Dec 10, 2019 at 6:12
  • @seyed sepehr mouavi, 2nd comment: what meaning can life have in a secular worldview is debatable. You'll find plenty of questions about this topic on this site. My answer already address what could be considered a loss under the hypothesis that there is no god (or at least, no way to know which is the only true one). Anyway, I don't think it changes the flaws in the Pascal wager my answer tries to explain.
    – armand
    Dec 10, 2019 at 7:58

No, I don't think your argument is valid. For scenario 1 you considered the consequence of accepting or denying 1 while 1 is true and the consequence of accepting or denying 1 while 1 is false. You did the same for scenario 2, but not scenario 3.

However, accepting scenario 2 when scenario 2 is false, means that option 3 could be true. This means you are wrong in saying:

However, if I take the second option, I would eaither not exist after death (no gain and no loss)

Because it could turn out religion X was true (you assigned it a non-zero probability initially) and now you will be condemned after death in the hell of religion X.

Furthermore, this argument also depends on whether you believe there can only be a finite amount of religions. But what if we can imagine there exists a religion X+1 with a unique belief system not found in religion X? Then there may also be religion X+2 elsewhere in the universe unbeknownst to us, religion X+3, X+4, X+5,...,X+N all with the same requirement for blind faith, but unique tenets. But according to probability laws, the probability of a single, discrete event in a continuous distribution is 0. Therefore you can make no inference.

Finally from a subjective point of view, you say there is nothing to lose, but living your life according to what a religion says only because it could be true, can be seen as a major loss in the eyes of some because you only get to live once and it would be a major waste to live it based on someone else's potential lies. It is also ironic to try and make rational, evidence based arguments on the validity of believing in something that demands non of it.

  • Interesting answer, and thank you for that. First, If you are to choose between X, X+1,X+2,....,X+n (so n finite religions), of course the wisest decision is to choose the one that the computer says its probability to be the highest in this list. Hence, you would not choose X if its probability is 0. In other words, there is a probability for a religion, that the computer says to be impossible to be right, to turn out be really true. But is this probability more than that of the most likely religion? There is no absolute good, but better and best;wise people choose the best. Dec 9, 2019 at 23:16
  • Additionally, if your life is going to end with no afterdeath, then it does not matter what you really do in this one-time life, as you are going not to exist anymore. In other words, no afterdeath means no purpose of life, and whether you have or have not reached the "targets" of your life is not going to make any difference: you will end up in nowhere, with everything you have done. Dec 9, 2019 at 23:19
  • And about the idea of infinite religions, you are right. That is a necessary assumption to be taken. However, notice that even if there are infinite religions, one is going to be right (which has a probability of zero!) This seems to be a paradox, as a religion cannot be both true and false. I do not know how this can be resolved, so please let me know of your ideas. Thank you! Dec 9, 2019 at 23:23

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